Pakistan is said to have shared information regarding the threat of a possible attack in Pulwama district, probably near Awantipora, a top security official in Srinagar has confirmed to The Sunday Express.
At the SCO Summit in Bishkek, which Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere “free of terrorism”, but at this stage, New Delhi has not seen that from Islamabad. The PM also said he has made efforts to initiate peace with Pakistan, but his efforts have been “derailed”.
The entire security grid in J&K is on its toes after the alert, which came just days ago, regarding a possible attack by militants using an improvised explosive device mounted on a vehicle.
“The Pakistanis shared this information regarding the possibility of such an attack with our High Commission in Islamabad. They had also shared this information with the Americans, who too, informed us. So this information has come directly as well as via the Americans to us,” the official said.
“The attack, the Pakistanis say, is being ostensibly planned to avenge the killing of Zakir Musa,” the official said.
Musa, who launched and headed an al-Qaeda affiliate called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in Kashmir after breaking away from the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2017, was killed in an operation in the Tral area last month. Police sources said Ansar, which had an estimated membership of about a dozen militants, is now down to “two to three” militants.
The February 14 fidyeen car bomb attack in which 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed, had taken place on the highway at Lethpora (also in Pulwama district), which is 7 km from Awantipora. The attack had prompted India to launch the Balakot airstrikes on February 26, and Pakistan had retaliated the following day.
Temperatures were lowered after Pakistan returned IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan who had been captured after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down.
There was concerted international pressure on Pakistan and, weeks later, even China joined the global consensus at the United Nations to blacklist Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group suspected to have been behind the attack.
“We are reading Pakistan’s sharing of this information in two ways. It is either a way to make sure that they avoid blame if a big attack takes place, because they have already shared the information with the Americans. Or it is a genuine attempt to inform us ahead after they found out, particularly because the information is regarding a plan to attack by members of an al-Qaeda linked group,” the top security official said.
“We also understand that any activities of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda are seen differently by them (Pakistan),” the official said.
Another senior police officer confirmed the alert. “We are always on alert, especially in South Kashmir. But we are taking this alert very seriously,” this officer said.
Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa, the police claims, was the last surviving member of the Burhan Wani group. Wani was killed on July 8, 2016. Musa subsequently broke away from the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2017 to set up the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which he claimed was a local affiliate of al-Qaeda. The Global Islamic Media Front, the online propaganda arm of al-Qaeda, had released a statement on the setting up of the Ansar in Kashmir.
Musa was a civil engineering student at a college in Chandigarh when he went missing in July 2013, and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen subsequently. In 2017, Musa released an audio threatening top separatist leaders in the Valley. He was also publicly critical of Pakistan.